Dear Crabby, Does My HOA Get a Say in My Christmas Display?

Dear Crabby,

Recently, I moved into a new neighborhood and since we’ve had some pretty mild winter weather I decided to put up my outside decorations. I’m in the middle of trying to figure out what goes where when this guy saunters up and informs me that some of my decorations may not be Homeowners Association (HOA) approved. Does the HOA really have the right to dictate how I decorate?

Fred Frost

Dear Fred Frost,

I’m guessing you’ve never lived in an HOA-controlled area before? Most subdivisions have them, so unless you grew up or moved from the boonies, I can understand why some of their rules seem silly and petty. For those of you in the dark, an HOA operates in all those fancy new, single-family housing developments, condos and townhouses complexes as a governing body. You move into one of those neighborhoods and guess what? You’re automatically a member of the HOA. There’s no asking politely if you want to join because you have no choice. Come to think of it, it’s kind of like the mob and the people on the board are there to protect the interests of the neighborhood. Problem is, sometimes the HOA acts like the mob too.

Dear Crabby sits infront of his laptop

Dear Crabby Gives Advice

Not far from me, there are some homeowners in Auburn Hills finding out the hard way you can’t fight the HOA. For the past handful of years, this family has decorated their home to the hilt with enough lights that would make Clark Griswold proud. And if that wasn’t enough, the lights were choreographed to music, which made them look like they were dancing. So, it makes sense they called the display Our Dancing Lights. Folks would drive by, tune their radio to a specific station, and enjoy the show. The homeowners paid for this out-of-pocket and if that wasn’t enough, they also collected donations for a local nonprofit called The Rainbow Connection which grants wishes to ill children. Everything was going along just fine. People made this part of their holiday traditions and over $50,000 has been raised for the nonprofit. Then, BAM! This year the HOA goes all Grinch and tells these folks if they do their display they’ll be sued. Now I get it that the neighbors are probably tired of all the traffic this act of goodwill causes, but it’s once a year! I can’t believe the HOA wasn’t willing to work with this family to find a solution. Oh well. It was great while it lasted. The good news is that even though there won’t be any lights, the family is still taking donations for The Rainbow Connection. Personally, I think those Scrooges who made the decision should consider donating or run the risk of being visited by a bunch of spooky spirits.

The bottom line is while it sometimes stinks, the HOA is legally a corporation and can enforce contracts with their homeowners. That means if you break a rule with an addition, exterior paint color, or even the type of Christmas decorations you want to use, they’re gonna make you change, fix, or pay up for your lapse in judgment. So, if you don’t want to find yourself redoing all your decorations in subzero temperatures, I’d suggest you read your HOA handbook first.

Hope this helps and good luck getting your lights untangled!

Dear Crabby


About Dear Crabby

Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

Speak Your Mind